Free-ranging populations of feral swine — also known as feral hogs, wild boar or wild pigs — can now be found throughout most of Alabama. Feral swine usually cause significant amounts of damage to agricultural crops, food plots, pastures and a myriad of other natural resources.
Mark Smith, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System wildlife specialist, said although wild pigs allow hunters an opportunity to harvest wild pork throughout the year, wild pigs cause tremendous damage.
“Wild pigs cause more than $55 million a year in agriculture damage in Alabama,” Smith said. “Other states such as Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana report similar damage nearing about $100 million each year.”
Alabama Feral Swine Control Program
The Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee recently launched a three-year program to help farmers remove wild pigs from their property. The Alabama Feral Swine Control Program originated in the 2018 Farm Bill. It is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program is available in select portions of Alabama.
It offers landowners two options. Landowners can receive assistance from USDA Wildlife Services to conduct wild pig removal operations and/or substantial rebates. Program participants can receive up to 70 percent off on purchases of high-tech trapping equipment. This equipment will enable farmers to more easily catch and remove problem wild pigs.
“Help is on the way for farmers whose land falls within the Feral Swine Control Program area,” Smith said. “Assistance like this doesn’t happen often. All eyes are on this program for the next couple of years to measure its success.”
Farmers affected by feral swine
Alabama farmers are all too familiar with the problems feral hogs cause in the field. These animals root up pastures, trample winter wheat and consume crops such as corn and peanuts right before harvest.
“These damages may be as little as a few hundred dollars to replant a food plot. But may also be a few hours on a tractor to repair rooting in a pasture,” Smith said. “However, in many cases, the damage can be substantial, often resulting in tens of thousands of crop loss dollars.”
The USDA conducted a study to analyze crop losses because of wild pigs in southeast Alabama in 2018. Bence Carter, a forestry, wildlife and natural resources regional Extension agent, said the study showed damage levels can be highly variable in peanut fields. Landowners can lose anywhere from 1.3% to 54.2% of a field to wild pigs.
Carter spends his time helping farmers remove wild pigs from farms in both a cost- and time-effective way. Carter has used workshops, seminars, online meetings and training videos to help farmers better manage this nuisance species.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to managing wild pigs, farmers themselves are the ones who have to address the problem by putting in the time, money and effort to control local feral swine populations to reduce crop loss,” said Bill Puckett, executive director of the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee.
“This is a disheartening observation for many farmers who don’t want to add the time-consuming commitment of wild pig removal to an already long list of tasks,” Smith said. “The hope is to expand the Alabama Feral Swine Control Program to other areas of Alabama if it is successful.”
To learn more about the Alabama Feral Swine Control Program, and if you qualify for assistance, visit the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation website. Contact Bence Carter or Mark Smith for more information and to find out how Extension can assist your operation.
Alabama Cooperative Extension contributed this article.